"Records? Of course," Aulus said, growing serious. Levity was not something that came easily to him, unlike Longinus and Titus Rufus. He could recognise a joke well enough, but could not keep it up for long when it was his turn to play one. It had led to having his leg pulled, but he was not the best person to play jokes on, either, as various people had discovered over the years.
He narrowed his eyes. "If you are joking, Titus Sulpicius Rufus, it is in poor taste. If you are serious - how many units are concerned?"
It could be poor accounting, of course - even the best mathematicians required an abacus to work out XVII plus III, after all - but if it was not, and it was more than one unit whose accounts were coming up short, that meant that there was a high-ranking personage involved and quite possibly several junior ranking people, too, which meant that the fraud (if such there was!) could run very deep indeed.
He would not dignify Longinus' comment with a reply save the raising of an eyebrow.
Aulus and his family were sitting near the Imperial box, so close that he could hold a conversation with those sitting in it. Sitting so close to the Imperial family was a mark of great favour, and the family was arrayed in their best finery, Horatia Justina in a deep vibrant cherry red stola and palla that suited her fine complexion and dark hair. Aulus himself was in his senatorial tunic and toga, as befit such an occasion.
Someone within the Imperial box asked a question, but it was not answered right away. Aulus looked over and saw that the others seemed to be in conversation and had not heard.
"The first fighters are a pair of gladiatrices," he said, and laid his copy of the list on the marble edge of the box so that the questioner, the Imperial princess Claudia Caesaris, could see it. "Thessala and Ino. I know nothing of the latter, but the former is a formidable fighter by all accounts."
@Anna @Chris @Sarah @Gothic (and anyone else in the vicinity)
"Yes, I think so," Aulus replied dryly. "But I think I'm up for it - let it not be said that I was content to rest on my laurels when there was work to be done." He wasn't afraid of hard work, either. He had governed well (though Raetia itself wasn't a troublesome province, it bordered Germania and had required a governor with military experience).
"There is a greater chance of winning an election if I can show that the people would benefit," he added. "I am thinking of sponsoring a building project - a new thermae, perhaps, or a theatre." He could not compete with the new amphitheatre, of course, and would not try.
"Do I know why the esteemed Titus Sulpicius Rufus is in your tent? I confess that I do not, save that it is your tent and the two of you are never far apart, Jupiter Optimus Maximus have mercy on the rest of us," Aulus said. He looked up at the new arrival. "Perhaps the aforementioned esteemed Titus Sulpicius Rufus would care to have a seat and inform us?"
Aulus had not had anyone to tease in quite a while and it came easily to him - if they were the younger brothers, he was their older, more responsible, brother. He wondered if that made Quintus Augustus their long-suffering father.
@Chevi @Liv @Sara
Aulus noticed Titus' intrigued expression, and ignored it. Felix had not left Rome before, to Aulus'knowledge, and he would be a bad master if he didn't concern himself with his slave's fitness to travel.
"It is," he said, glancing at the sky. He would have offered a sacrifice for their safe travels, had he had the time. As it was, he would offer one in gratitude for their safe arrival at Quintus' camp.
There seemed to be no sign of pursuit and despite the worries about the journey ahead, Aulus had a sense of relief. He found himself whistling, a legionary song.
Oh, when I joined the Eagles, as might be yesterday, I kissed a girl at Clusium before I marched away.
With apologies to Rosemary Sutcliff. I'm out, too, thanks, guys!
"Good. Let me know if there is anything else you need, won't you?"
He would not interfere with Felix's private life (much); his slave was a sensible person and unlikely to make any disastrous choices (Aulus would be quick enough to step in and interfere with a bad choice, though, however benevolent a master he was) and therefore Aulus would allow him that autonomy. Felix was one of the most senior slaves in the household, after all.
He would be surprised if Felix did not find a girl who'd like to marry him, he was a good-looking man with a privileged position in a senatorial household.
"We're going to be in Rome for at least a year, Felix, you should try to settle in a bit," he said, breaking the silence again. "I am hoping to be elected consul for next year, and who knows what will happen after that."
"Welcome to my humble home - well, my father's humble home, but Pater has decided that the Empire will run well enough without him and has returned to the countryside." Aulus greeted first one friend and then the next, who arrived hot on the heels of the first as though the two couldn't bear to be separated for more than a moment. He couldn't help wondering if they were in fact brothers who'd been separated at birth.
The cithara player he'd hired from the Venus was promising to be good and Aulus snapped his fingers at the slave with the drinks, indicating that the scantily clad youth should offer a cup to Aulus' friends, and then to the cithara player - while she was likewise here to entertain Aulus' guests, she was a freedwoman and not a slave and would maybe need a drink or two if she sang as well as merely played.
"I hope everything is to your taste," he said to his friends.
@Sara @Liv (and still open for anyone and everyone else who wants to join in!)
"You can't sit on your hands and let things slip by just because there might be a better chance later on," Aulus pointed out sagely. "Making no decision is impossible - if you don't choose to do something, you're effectively letting something decide to happen. And you're not the passive sort of person to let that happen - not precisely how and why Fabius Cunctator got his agnomen, but not far off it."
He fell silent for a moment, watching the people passing, before speaking again.
"You wouldn't be the first soldier whose oratory skills have grown rusty, and you're not likely to be the last - but a praetor isn't expected to prosecute anyone, or defend any poor sod. You just listen to the arguments the magistrates make and practise your eloquent summing up at home in front of your slaves who won't dare laugh at you if you are in fact making an ass of yourself, and make you speech when you've practised it. Same with talking in the Senate - let the old men waffle on and just raise your pertinent points when something's being discussed. If you're clever about your timing, nobody's going to notice your delivery's rusty as a legionary's hobnails. Sneak it in after some ancient ex-consul's meanderings and you'll sound as polished as my wife's best mirror."
He let out a chuckle. "I think my father had my professional career all mapped out since he first picked me up and acknowledged me as his son. I'm just lucky I found I had a head for it all - I think nothing would please him more than for me to end up as governor of some prestigious province somewhere - perhaps Aegyptus - as proconsul. 'My son the proconsul of Aegyptus'... Pater would probably die of pride if that wouldn't be too unRoman."
He looked across at his friend, growing more serious. "If you didn't choose, if, say, Quintus Augustus summoned you and informed you he had picked one of those paths for you to follow, and you had no way to influence him to change his mind, which of them would you hope he chose?"
"A praetor only holds the position for a year, you know that as well as I do," Aulus said. "It would be a break from dealing with raiding parties all. the. bloody. time,and it would give you a chance to use some of your less warlike skills for a year. And afterwards, you would be in a stronger position to petition Quintus Augustus for a governorship somewhere, if you wanted. Or for another military appointment if that's what you prefer. There is more to life than merely military service, after all - remind yourself why Rome is the greatest and what those barbarians are lacking."
He looked at his friend, who now had hair sticking up after running his hand through it. It made him look boyish, in a way.
"I would be honoured to have you as as a colleague and fellow Senator," he added. "Let someone else deal with the Dacians, the Britons and the Jews for a bit."
"Ave, quaestor, morituri te salutant," Aulus said, following the gladiators' customary words with a precise military salute as he allowed the scroll he had been looking at to roll up, neatly obscuring Titus' view of it. "Indeed, we have been preparing for a while - is it any wonder that the soldiers have begun to gamble, considering they may very well be roaming Elysium tomorrow. Of course, Jupiter willing, they may instead face the appropriate discipline offered by Augustus' legions."
A little teasing could not hurt, after all, given that all that they had actually been poring over and talking about were supply lists, which were enough to bore even the most patient of men. He held out his own goblet to be refilled as Longinus' slave moved to serve the new arrival.
He resumed his seat, a little easier than he had been sitting in affected nonchalance. He was older than the other two - an elder brother figure to them, in a way, though they were close enough in age that he did not feel that his presence would put too much of a damper on their high spirits.
He glanced at Felix, his own slave, as he refilled Aulus' winecup, remembering their escape from Rome, when Felix and Titus had first crossed paths.